What is Candida? | The Beginning of My Sugar-Free Life

All Health Begins in the Gut. Find out about Candida, the Causes of Gut Dysbiosis, Why I Went Sugar Free, and to Improve Your Health from the Inside Out.

**IMPORTANT – Check out Healing From Autism, Eczema, Hypoglycemia, and More – Come Find Out How to get more great information on gut health and learn about an amazing gut health course.  Savings on the course through 6/26/13.)

Is it possible to stop eating sugar?

What is candida anyway?

Why do I avoid dates, and why am I so picky about sweeteners on this blog?

Come find out.

If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, you’ve noticed something.

– I don’t post recipes including dried fruits, and when I feature them (like in my Allergy-Free blog hop), I present an alternative.

– I use alternative sweeteners (like stevia and even–gasp–xylitol and erythritol.)

Why is that?

Well, I used to be a real sugar-aholic and that led to some pretty bad health effects.

I thought I really needed to share some of the story with you so that you could learn more about me–and perhaps learn how to better care for yourself and your family.

I grew up in a family eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).  A typical daily menu would look like:

– White bread toast with margarine and cinnamon sugar on it (and it wasn’t my Healthified Cinnamon Sugar)
– School lunch (maybe pizza, milk, and dessert.  When I got into high school, it was likely
–  Pasta, stir fry, etc.
– of course, after school snacks of dry cereal, ice cream (like Breyer’s Natural Mint Chip)

Of course, there was variation, but you get the idea.

As I grew older, my “health consciousness” grew, and I started eating more and more vegetables and fruits, and even whole grains, but I still was a real sugar addict.

I even worked at an ice cream parlor for years, which was a completely bad idea.

All employees would snack on the ice cream and candy bar toppings (when we had time), and there were numerous days when I came home stuffed and just couldn’t eat dinner.

Years went by.  I ended up with health issues that no one could connect the dots with.

itching in my ears, which the doctor said was likely just dry ears “It’s a vicious cycle.  Just stop itching them.  It’ll go away.”
vaginal itching (diagnosed as vaginitis)
–  tinea versicolor (a fungus that discolors the back and abdomen with white, itchy spots.  Typically it shows up in summer months.)

And as more years went by, more conditions showed up:

on and off fatigue
mood fluctuations

I clearly remember the day (about 3 years ago) when I was standing after church, talking with two friends of mine.  They were talking about candida.  And sugar.  And changing their diets.

I was listening, but basically might as well have had my fingers in my ears, because I didn’t want to hear what they were saying.

They were talking about:

severe mood fluctuations
vaginal “issues”

(Hmmm…sounds familiar, eh?)

And they were talking about candida.

I’d heard about candida, but no doctor had said that I had it.  They should know what they are talking about, right?


One of my friends said she had had manic-depressive episodes and thought she’d have to give up homeschooling, but going sugar-free had helped her greatly.

I. didn’t. want. to. hear. that.

Me?  Give up sugar.

No way.

I really was basically standing there with my fingers in my ears humming to myself to block out their words…..

Well, fast forward six months or a year.

My symptoms progressed.  Now I had:

severe fatigue
mood swings and depression (it’s pretty easy to be depressed when you are severely fatigued.)
itching scalp (sometimes this got pretty bad.)
insomnia (I had always had a hard time sleeping, but it was getting worse.)

I felt like I’d hit rock bottom.

I didn’t know what to do, but a friend who participates in our family’s whole foods co-op shared her struggles with sugar and candida with me.

She pointed me to a site called Whole Approach.  I took their Candida Symptom Assessment Questionnaire and my score was super high.

My allopathic background (I had been pre-med in college) led me to be suspicious of any “self-diagnosing questionnaire”, but I needed help.

I poured over their site, and ordered their cleansing and candida-killing supplements, and started the candida diet.

Well, there is a lot more to tell.

I had horrible die-off reactions the first two weeks or so of the diet.

My diet had changed and now I was eating:

no sweeteners that feed candida (sugar, evaporated cane juice, sucanat, agave, maple syrup, honey, etc.)
no fruit
no dried fruit
limited starches

Later, after following their protocol pretty carefully, I found myself in a pit of bad health again.

I’ll be sharing more about that later.  But let’s just suffice it to say that I now think there is much more to treating candida than just cutting back on sugars and starches.

I do think checking out Whole Approach’s site for dietary ideas and for their self-assessment can be quite helpful.

But I think you’ll be intrigued to hear more about candida and its ties to other health issues in the future.

We’ve had a lot of health struggles in our family.  It is hard to deal with them all, but I do hope that what I share can bring help and healing to others.

UPDATE –  June 2013.  There is a GREAT Gut Health Course (I am an affiliate for the course, so if you register through my link I will get a commission) that is going to be taught starting July 10 for 10 weeks.  It’s a great “learn when you can” ecourse so you can follow along at your own pace and learn in the comfort of your own home.

You can get all of the details by clicking on the image below.

Heal Gut June 2013



Other Health-Related Posts:

Could You Have Heavy Metal Toxicity and Not Know It?
Just Tired?  Or Something More?  Take This Quick Test
Just a Red Face? Or Something More?
Food Allergies and Eczema – From Despair to Healing

Some of Our Favorite Sugar-Free Treats:

Healthy “Almond Joy” Bars
Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Homemade “Jello”
Chocolate Chip “Cheesecake”-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes (dairy-free) 

(Now remember: I am not a doctor and this post is not to be construed as medical advice.  You should consult with your physician before making any dietary changes or trying any supplements.  But you knew that, right :-)?)

For more of the story, read Candida, My Childhood, and 5 Causes of Gut Imbalance and Busting a Popular Gut Health Myth.

Have you thought about going off of sugar?

This post contains an affiliate link or two.  Please read my disclaimer.
Shared at Food Renegade.

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  1. We are doing GAPS right now to try and help me with Candida. I was frustrated because I thought I had a gazillion unrelated things so searching Candida really was nice to know the ear infections, itching, joint pain (in past), food intolerances, anxiety, and /extreme/ fatigue, headaches, chronic cough ect. was all potentially connected. I think my daughter has it too and is THRIVING on GAPS. I took the test and got 465… but it has been a really bad day so I might have over estimated a few things.

    • I also took the spit test and “soared” I might be going lower carb after baby is born but I was recommended not to right now.

    • HI Debra. I am considering GAPS for myself and my son…..problem is the broth and other things. My son detests broth (kind of like a phobia) and he is deathly allergic to egg whites and dairy and most nuts. And w/ the candida I fear we cannot tolerate honey. I would need to use the sweeteners that they forbid. Can you tell me how it is going w/ you? I would love to check into this further, or maybe we need to look at SCD instead. Thanks!

  2. I just read this article. I scored a 125. What 125?! In the above post you say there is more to your story as you were on the Candida Diet and still had health problems. I am looking forward to that article or if it is somewhere on the site already please post a link for us who are relatively new.

    125?! OMG

    • I think I was in the 300’s. You are waaaay better. Did you read my fermented foods post from yesterday? Hang with me — it will all come together. I am not totally healed but things are so much better.

  3. Kelly H. says:

    Hi Adrienne, can you tell me where you get your sweeteners from? I’ve tried Xylitol before and liked the taste, but the kind I bought turned out to be highly processed and had sucralose in it (which I can’t have, instant migraine). I’ve had Stevia before as well, but didn’t like the after taste it left. But that could have been the brand I was using. I am trying to get off the sugar because I am addicted to it. (at least it feels that way!) Though I highly suspect I have candida as well… Thanks for all the good info you have posted!

    • Thanks for writing! I get xylitol from 2 places. One is from a place that sells bulk (Global Sweet) but recently I have begun buying from Green Polka Dot Box. Their prices are really good and they have good quality control. Here’s a post on them. If it looks like you would shop there let me know. As for stevia, the info on stevia is in a lot of my posts, one of them is this Bean Fudge post. That’s the only brand I use at present. Hope that helps!

  4. Kelly H. says:

    Thanks! :) I looked up the info on the stevia and liked what I saw. Many reviewers said it didn’t have any bitterness or aftertaste and that is exactly why I haven’t liked the stevia I’ve tried before, so I think I will like this one. I will have to look up the info about the xylitol too. One word of caution to pet owners, xylitol is toxic to cats (I don’t know about dogs though.) Stevia I’m not sure about, but I would keep it away from pets to be safe.

    • Xylitol is toxic to dogs, but so are raisins and chocolate, so there are several things to think about regarding pets. Take care! I don’t think stevia is toxic to them – not that I have heard.

  5. Oh how familiar your story is! Mine is nearly identical except I never worked at an ice cream shop. LOL. I’ve tried GAPS – but still ate honey and fruit like a crazy person. So now I am on day 9 of a candida cleanse – I’m convinced I may have to eat this way forever! I cut out all that you mentioned above, and I’m doing some high powered herbs from my local enzyme specialist. Die off really does suck… It’s so hard, but I keep telling myself it will be worth it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Welcome, Carly. Yup – don’t try the ice cream store. What a disaster! Did you see the Gut Health Course? It’s really great. I bet you would find a ton of stuff that would help. Take care and hope to see you around again–maybe in the class :).

  6. Laurie Stryker says:

    I am researching the Candida diet for my son. I see you use Xylitol as a sweetener, but it is on the list of foods to avoid on the Whole Approach website. I’m confused. . .

    • Hi Laurie. The sweetener info is really confusing. Tarilee on WA is very picky and I appreciate that, but there are some things that I didn’t do according to plan and some things that in my own experience and research that I think might be incorrect. (By the way, I think she is amazing so this is not meant to discredit her at all). I think that xylitol is a good option and so is erythritol. We have heard that you can work yourself up to tolerance of xylitol if you have digestive upset from it. I still wonder some times, but for my family and our budget, we use it. There has been a lot published about xylitol that is negative that just is not true and I hope to write a post about it soon. In the meantime, you could also try yacon, vegetable glycerine, etc to round out your sweetener options.

      One good example of where I differ from Tarilee is my thoughts about fermented foods. I thought for years that I couldn’t tolerate them, but if you read my post on Why I Don’t Have Fermented Foods on My Blog, you will find out that it turns out that I wasn’t.

  7. Hi! In one of your recent posts you mentioned making a substitute for recipes requiring date paste. I can’t seem to find it but I do remember you mentioning using pumpkin and several other ingredients (and I can’t remember those!). Do you have a specific formula you use. I avoid most fruits, sugars, grains as I have thyroid issues and have had breast cancer (I also intensely dislike the taste of most dried sweet fruits ie: figs,, dates, raisins and bananas anyway!) I will use stevia if necessary or even a small amount of mesquite powder if a recipe calls for some sweetness. Love your posts! Keep up the good work and thank you!

    • I don’t have a specific recipe (yet :)!). I was thinking pumpkin or sweet potato and/or chia with sweetener mixed in. I would think even some gum or glucomannan would help w/ the texture. I’ll try to work on it as I can but I would just try making a concoction to see what you come up with for now :)! Sorry. I’ve got a bit too much going on.

  8. I am still struggling on which sweetener I should be using to make a recipe candida-friendly. Is it best to use vegetable glycerine, xylitol or stevia? I am not even sure what the differences are betwen them.

    • I use all of them. Mostly xylitol, erythritol, and stevia. I wrote a post on stevia here. And here is a blend I make myself, though I might need to change it a big. I use whatever I like but typically I will cut the sugar amount in 1/2 and use xylitol for that portion and make up for the remaining sweetness w/ stevia. Hope this helps. I need to write a post on this soon :)!

  9. I have a very severe eczema problem on my hands. I am 21 years old and this eczema just randomly showed up on my right hand on only two fingers in May of this year. It has spread all fingers except my thumb on my right hand and now over to my left. It is so bad that it is at the point of cracking, pussing, bleeding, flaking, itching, leathering over, and starting the cycle over again.
    I started a candida cleanse two weeks ago and I am not seeing any improvements. I am using essential oils on my hands to help clear them up, and I have tried SO many things!
    I am eating dairy and wheat free right now. No sugar, and no fruits except for berries, green apples, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. What else can I do!? I am feeling so desperate right now.

  10. I just took the Candida Symptom assessment on Whole Approach, got a score of 290 :( I’ve been researching Candida for a while, and am sure that’s the main cause of ALL my problems, but I just don’t know where to start. Sp many different supplements and treatments, all saying they are the only way to do it. And it’s a lot of money we don’t have. If the Whole Approach wasn’t what worked for you, what did? Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    • Well, in a nutshell, I crashed after following their protocol. And it was bad. I am not sure why but I think it was heavy metals and adrenal issues. I did some work on ridding sugar out totally and working on the metals and adrenals and am doing better now. I am still not out of the woods but I had a friend locally who experienced the same thing. I think candida is something that expresses itself but there are other things going on as well. This is some more about the metals. http://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/could-you-have-heavy-metal-poisoning-and-not-know-it-part-one/

      • brooklynD says:

        I didn’t know fruits were bad for you with candida until my DR told me. This is the program he recommended, and it got rid of my y infection in 2 days.

        Lady Soma Advance Candida Supplement
        with Distilled watter (with added minerals)
        organic beans
        olive oil

        Now that I have my diet straight, I take the lady soma candida supplement, and going to the gym every day I am yeast free!

  11. My whole family tested positive for candida using the spit test. Even my 7 year old. We don’t do antibiotics now but did in the past. Been sugar and grain free for 10 days and, honestly, it sucks. Especially for my husband and kid. Taking Thorne Formula 722, coconut oil, raw garlic, Bragg raw vinegar before every meal, a little raw honey with cinnamon (the good cinnamon), kefir, and Keybiotics. Praying we can add in some starches soon. Before we kill each other. ;) So far my kid’s allergies seem a tiny bit better, my husband had a skin issue that seems to be improving, and my scalp itches a little less. Hoping it will help my bloating so I don’t literally look 6 months pregnant. Few headaches for me, but not seeing any other die off yet.

  12. Holy cow! My Candida questionnaire score was 220! Um, crap!!! I don’t even know where to go from here. :(

  13. Keesha Doss says:

    I know this is going to sound rather silly but I am so glad that someone else has itchy ears! Drs thot I was crazy! I was beginning to think I was, too! Lol!
    My question: Can you go sugar-free like you did while breastfeeding? I have a 7 month old girl. I have an insanely leaky gut. She gets severe exzema every time she feeds from me. I think my adrenals are shot. Probably lazy liver and kidneys. I can’t eat much of anything. Trying to work w/ wholistic dr but so expensive.

    • Hey there! Yes, misery loves company, eh :)? Or should I say :(. Yes you can of course lose the sugar while breastfeeding as it isn’t a necessary nutrient, however I can’t make medical claims so please check w your doc. I know, I have to say that. I so would love to help and have a lot to share …..but I am not a practitioner. There are typical things you could do. Perhaps we could arrange something via email but again, I can only share my own experiences – not prescribe.